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YES Network's John Flaherty and Michael Kay last night were "not shying away from" discussing the 211-game suspension MLB gave Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez and his controversial return to the team's lineup during an "expanded, one-hour pregame show and during the game itself," according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. That is "contrary to YES' long custom of limiting talk about off-field issues." The broadcasters "extensively discussed the A-Rod soap opera, which eased the awkwardness of YES' odd decision not to carry live Rodriguez's pregame news conference." Three local TV stations and "at least five local radio stations" did air the press conference live, as did SportsNet N.Y., ESPN, MLB Network and CNN. YES instead showed a re-air of the Gene Michael "Yankeeography." The net "did show the news conference in its entirety during the pregame and replayed highlights during the game." The suspensions of Rodriguez and 12 others MLBers "prompted blanket coverage on national and local television and radio -- led by ESPN and MLB Network" -- when they were announced around 3:00pm ET yesterday. However, YES "declined to interrupt its encore presentation of Sunday's Yankees-Padres game with the news." SNY, the Mets' flagship station, "cut into its regular programming with a report and analysis" (NEWSDAY, 8/6). YES Network VP/Communications Eric Handler in an e-mail wrote showing Rodriguez' news conference at 7:00pm "enabled us to package everything into a smooth-running cohesive show that incorporated all of the latest developing news of the afternoon." Handler: "Also, by going at 7 pm, we had a potentially bigger audience for our show than we’d have during the 6:00 hour." YES "did live-tweet the news conference" (N.Y. POST, 8/6).
KEEPING THINGS LOW-KEY: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes YES "low-keyed this media spectacle." It "did not ignore" Rodriguez returning to play following his suspension, but there was "no sense of urgency or drama in the coverage." It "didn't feel special." After not broadcasting press conferences with Rodriguez and Yankees manager Joe Girardi, YES "played catch-up with a fine hour-long pregame show, which included multiple airings of the two press conferences." While the decision "not to go live was infuriating, it was really cosmetic." However, it was "clear from the get-go that A-Rod was not getting the same treatment Derek Jeter received when he returned to the team." There was "no sappy soliloquy" from Kay and "no melodramatic music." Kay during Rodriguez' time with the Yankees "has often provided him with a soft place to land." But early in last night's game, which "served as a mere backdrop for Rodriguez’s return, Kay pounded Rodriguez for failing to deny PED use" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/6).
CONTROVERSY DRAWS A CROWD: YES Network drew its highest ratings of the season last night for Rodriguez' return to the lineup. The net averaged a 4.34 local rating, an increase over the 4.16 rating for a May 27 game against the Mets. Last night's game peaked with an 8.22 rating in the 8:30-8:45pm quarter hour, when Rodriguez made his first at bat (YES Network).
EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT: The suspension of Rodriguez and the other 12 players made the front page of many newspapers this morning. USA Today uses the headline "Yer Out" and puts Rodriguez above the fold, as well as head shots of many of the other players disciplined. The N.Y. Times places the Rodriguez story on the front page below the fold with the headline, "A Big Name Back In The Lineup, But Crossed Off Baseball's List." The Wall Street Journal front page features an image of Rodriguez and several other suspended players with the header, "Thirteen Men Out: Baseball Issues Drug Bans." Here is how some other MLB markets covered the news.
Chicago Tribune: "Baseball Drug War Could Get Uglier"
Dallas Morning News: "Cruz Called Out"
Denver Post: "'Baseball Must Do Everything It Can To Maintain Integrity, Fairness And A Level Playing Field'"
Detroit Free Press: "Should We Forgive And Forget?"
L.A. Daily News: "Throw The Bums Out?"
Miami Herald: "Fall From Grace"
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Another One Bites The Dust"
Philadelphia Inquirer: "Big-League Bans"
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Dark Day For MLB"
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Cheaters Row"
St. Paul Pioneer Press: "You're Outta Here"
San Diego Union-Tribune: "13 Suspended"
Red Sox Owner John Henry "spent several hours at The Boston Globe Monday, meeting employees desk-by-desk in the newsroom and other departments," according to Beth Healy of the BOSTON GLOBE. Henry had a "lunch meeting with the Globe's senior management and afterward spent time in the sports department, talking with sports editor Joe Sullivan and other staffers." Henry "declined to offer details about his plans for the company's future." But Globe Editor Brian McGrory said that Henry told him he "wants to boost revenues rather than slash costs, and does not plan to influence the paper's coverage of the Red Sox." McGrory: "I was adamant with him that our coverage wouldn't change. But I didn't have to be, because he was adamant with me that our coverage wouldn't change. He would, in his view, only diminish the value of the Globe and the Red Sox if he tried to influence our coverage" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/6). Meanwhile, an FCC official said that the agency's cross-ownership rules "apply to traditional broadcast stations that use the public airwaves, and so don't apply" to Henry's ownership of NESN, which is an RSN (BOSTON HERALD, 8/6).
The NFL is "consolidating some of its disparate batch of mobile applications, and is focusing its efforts on a newly redesigned and rebranded flagship product, NFL Mobile," according to Eric Fisher of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The new NFL Mobile app "replaces both an app that carried the same name but was available only to Verizon subscribers as part of the carrier’s broad partnership with the league, and a separate but similar product called NFL ’13 that was not carrier-specific." The league still will "operate and support its stand-alone NFL Fantasy app, but many of those fantasy features are also now present in the NFL Mobile app." The reorganization seeks to "end a period of market confusion when fans did not necessarily know which apps they should have to get the most content on the league." The new NFL Mobile comes in Apple iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile versions that are "available now or should be in the coming days." Verizon will have "prominent branding on the smartphone version of the app in the U.S., and Verizon subscribers have exclusive access to several key pieces of content, such as live streaming of Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games, NFL RedZone, and a continual live stream of the NFL Network" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/5 issue). ALLTHINGSD.com's Peter Kafka noted the NFL by consolidating the two apps is "taking more control over its digital experience." That move is happening as COO Brian Rolapp "ascends to the CEO title." Kafka: "So keep an eye on the league for more interesting digital developments down the line" (ALLTHINGSD.com, 8/5).
DIFFERENT VISIONS: AD AGE's Mike Skogmo wrote of the NFL and NBA, "One has embraced online video, and the other has dropped the ball entirely." The "industry-leading online video presence belongs" to the NBA, while the NFL has "trailed inexplicably." The NBA with more than four million subscribers "boasts one of the most popular YouTube channels in the world." By contrast, the NFL has "no YouTube presence, though if it did, success would be virtually guaranteed." The video content "on its own website notwithstanding, take one look at NFL.com and it's clear that video is not the focus." Skogmo: "Why has the NFL resisted? Without any word from the league, we're left to speculate. Does it see YouTube as a threat to its lucrative TV distribution?" Perhaps it is "worried that an endless supply of bone-crunching football clips available 24/7 for viewing and replay will feed into the growing movement that accuses the game of being too dangerous." Although it is "a slim possibility, considering the league's immaculate track record, the NFL's business brass simply may have made a poor judgment." For an organization that is "highly esteemed and generally lauded for being on-point in every aspect of its business and marketing operations, ignoring YouTube seems decidedly off point" (ADAGE.com, 8/2).
The Univ. of Oklahoma's Sooner Sports TV as it "closes in on its one-year anniversary has produced more than 2,600 hours of programming on television and online," according to Mel Bracht of the OKLAHOMAN. OU AD Joe Castiglione said, "We went from televising one hundred hours annually to over twenty-six hundred hours. This unique network approach gave us instant distribution to over 10 million in the one region." LHB Sports, Entertainment and Media President & CEO Lee Berke, who assisted OU in the net's development, said, "It's always been fully distributed. It's never an issue of where we're going to get on. It's a question of how good can we make this content, how much can we put on, how much we can market it." Bracht noted the programming "has shown up" on FS Oklahoma, FS Southwest or OU's website, SoonerSports.com, and nationally on other Fox regional channels or Fox College Sports. FS Southwest Senior VP & GM Jon Heidtke said that the venture has "almost doubled the projected programming for the first year." The Internet video content on SoonerSports.TV "carries a subscription of $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year." The net's second year will bring "expanded digital coverage, including 'second-screen' opportunities for OU football fans to get additional content on their personal computers and smartphones." OU Assistant AD/Broadcast Operations Brandon Meier said that his staff has "grown to 18 full-timers, 25 part-timers and 80 to 100 students, who are able to get valuable on-the-job training while studying journalism and broadcasting at OU" (OKLAHOMAN, 8/3).
CBS yesterday said that Time Warner Cable's ongoing blackout of CBS signals "has had a minimal effect on the network's ratings." In L.A., Ryan Faughnder noted "through the first three nights of the outage, which began Friday, the network's ratings have been down by about 1%" (LATIMES.com, 8/5). Deutsche Bank Managing Dir Doug Mitchelson said that TV distributors "have started pushing back" on the rising costs of programming, "including on sports programming." Mitchelson said that DirecTV has "decided it won't carry" NBCUniversal's CSN Houston or TWC's upcoming Dodgers RSN, SportNet LA. He added that "some small cable operators attending the Independent Show" in San Diego "have said they pay upwards of $15 in some markets for regional sports channels." Mitchelson: "That's just abusive pricing for something that's not programming that many sports hours a year as it is" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 8/5).
NO DEAL: REUTERS notes CBS President & CEO Les Moonves today "fired back" at TWC, "using unusually harsh language to reject the cable company's overture in their dispute over broadcasting fees." In a letter to TWC Chair & CEO Glenn Britt, Moonves wrote of the cable company’s offer to carry the net on an a la carte basis, “Anyone familiar with the entertainment business knows that this is an empty gesture. The economics and structure of the cable industry have created a certain way that content is distributed and compensated. We both know that a true a la carte universe is not one that Time Warner Cable welcomes.” Mooves: “If you thought it was a good idea, why aren’t you offering your new, multi-billion-dollar Lakers and Dodgers channels to your subscribers in Los Angeles on an a la carte basis? Instead, your subscribers in Los Angeles are already being charged in the neighborhood of $4.00 for the Lakers and likely more than that for the Dodgers -- both of which you have pulled off broadcast television entirely.” He added, “At the same time, you find it impossible to pay far, far less than that for the network that brings your viewers the NFL, the PGA Championship, the Masters, the NCAA Basketball tournament, SEC Football … and so much more” (REUTERS, 8/6).
GOLDEN TICKET: DirecTV Chair, President & CEO Michael White during the company's Q2 earnings call said that "talks with the NFL are ongoing" about the Sunday Ticket package. White added that he "believed a renewal would be reached before the current contract expires" after the '14 season. White said, "I continue to be optimistic that we're great partners together and that Sunday Ticket will stay with us for the long haul." White said that DirecTV is "getting ready to update its Sunday Ticket iPad app with new features designed to appeal to the Fantasy Football crowd" (ADWEEK.com, 8/2).